BEASTS OF NO NATION (2015)

Beasts of No Nation is Netflix’s first feature film directed by Cary Fukanaga who also directed the outstanding first season of True Detective. The story follows the life of a boy named Agu who lives in a small village in an unnamed west African country. The village he lives in is deemed “the buffer zone” and is on the border of a war zone outside the village. The first third of the film is entirely set in that village as we see Agu’s interactions with his family and friends. He is constantly finding new ways to entertain himself with his friends since school has been closed due to the ongoing war. There are lots of comedic moments in the beginning, especially when Agu is selling “an imagination TV” with his friends or when he is hanging out with his older brother whose only concern is impressing the girls in his village. The film becomes unflinchingly dark once the village is under attack and he gets separated from his family. He flees to the jungle in order to escape the horror in his village, but he soon gets captured by a rebel group. We are then introduced to Idris Elba’s character who is only referred to in the film as the Commandant and is the leader of the battalion. The Commandant turns Agu into a child soldier by convincing him to join his army on a crusade to take over cities and fight “the enemy”. Fukanaga brings some of those long tracking shots that we have seen in “True Detective” to this film and some of the war scenes are shot beautifully; it is visually rich. As for the performances, Idris Elba is fantastic as the menacing warlord while new comer Abraham Attah who plays Agu knocks it out of the park and is truly Oscar worthy. This film is not for the faint of heart as it is a brutal look into the ugly world of civil wars in which innocent children are turned into killing machines. It is sure to cause controversy not only for what the film depicts, but the fact that it’s already stirring up the film industry since it’s being released in theaters even though it is currently available on Netflix. I found the film’s ending to be a bit anti-climactic but everything leading up to it was powerful and emotional. (8.5/10)

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